MUSEUMS & GALLERIES

Where Berlin - - Contents -

Hel­mut New­ton’s life ended abruptly but his legacy lives on.

Solveig Stein­hardt vis­its the Hel­mut New­ton Foun­da­tion to bet­ter un­der­stand the mean­ing of nu­dity in prêt-à-porter.

From celebri­ties to fashion mod­els, the sub­jects in Hel­mut New­ton’s pho­tog­ra­phy are cap­tured in erot­i­cal­ly­charged poses, of­ten de­picted naked or just about to un­dress. Some­where be­tween deca­dence and glamor, voyeurism, and fic­tion, his shots have been crit­i­cized by fem­i­nists for ob­jec­ti­fy­ing the fe­male. His women, how­ever, never ap­pear as vic­tims – they are more like his pow­er­ful and ma­nip­u­la­tive ac­com­plices.

Born in Ber­lin to a Jewish fam­ily in 1920, New­ton made the fi­nal de­ci­sion to flee Nazi Ger­many af­ter his fa­ther’s ar­rest on Kristall­nacht, on 9 Novem­ber 1938. A pas­sion­ate pho­tog­ra­pher since his early teenage years, he spent his first pe­riod out­side Ger­many work­ing as a pho­to­jour­nal­ist in Sin­ga­pore be­fore be­ing sent to Aus­tralia, where he be­gan his ca­reer as a fashion pho­tog­ra­pher. In 1948, he mar­ried June Brunell, who would later work on many of his projects and even re­place him on some of his Vogue as­sign­ments un­der the pseu­do­nym Alice Springs. The cou­ple moved to Paris, and later to Monaco, and spent long winters in Los An­ge­les. Through­out this time, New­ton main­tained a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with his home­town, and in 2003, not long be­fore his fa­tal car ac­ci­dent on Sun­set Boule­vard, he do­nated all his work to the Stiftung Preussis­cher Kul­turbe­sitz, which now houses the col­lec­tion in a Prus­sian army build­ing next to Ber­lin’s Zoo Sta­tion, where New­ton had boarded his train to Tri­este back in 1938.

Ten years af­ter the pho­tog­ra­pher’s death, June New­ton has de­cided to re­open the two ex­hi­bi­tions that in­au­gu­rated the Foun­da­tion in 2004. Fea­tur­ing works se­lected by Hel­mut New­ton him­self, Us And Them is a pho­to­graphic jour­nal of the cou­ple’s life, in­clud­ing in­ti­mate and re­cip­ro­cal self por­traits along­side por­traits of prom­i­nent per­son­al­i­ties of the 1980s and 1990s. The sec­ond ex­hi­bi­tion, Sex And Land­scapes, brings to­gether large for­mat land­scapes and nude pho­to­graphs taken be­tween 1974 and 2001, high­light­ing the con­trast be­tween the time­less­ness of na­ture and the ephemeral provo­ca­tion of erotic ob­ses­sion. Un­til 16 Novem­ber, Hel­mut New­ton Col­lec­tion (p. 48).

Hel­mut New­ton with his wife, June Brunell aka Alice Springs.

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